In the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, a well-known entertainer, performer and TV presenter has been arrested on sodomy charges, Turkmen.News reports (in Russian), citing its own sources. For his own protection, the news outlet has named him only by his initials G. S.
According to the opposition news outlet, the arrest took place sometime during the second half of March. Along with the presenter himself, the man’s boyfriend and around ten other individuals said to belong to the elite of Turkmen show business and the country’s modelling industry were also detained. Some of those arrested were later able to buy their freedom and have been released.
The cases against G. S. and several other young men have been taken further, and their trial is expected to take place within the next few days. If found guilty, they face up to two years in prison.
The men all have lawyers, but have reportedly found it difficult to convince the lawyers to represent them in this particular matter. Male lawyers refuse to take on sodomy cases, feeling that they offer little prospect of success and that defending the accused is a source of shame.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are the only countries in Central Asia where sexual relations between consenting adult men remain a criminal offence.
In a report (in Russian) entitled “The life of LGBT people in Turkmenistan” published in 2019 by the rights organisation Kyrgyz Indigo with the support of the international LGBTI rights organisation ILGA-Europe, it is stated that Turkmen police targeting gay men employ a standard method of entrapment: they arrange a date via an app or a dating site and then arrest their victims, but instead of pressing criminal charges they normally try to extort money from the men and pressure them to help them find new targets.
“The LGBT community is fragmented into small groups, in which people trust one another but do not let ‘outsiders’ in,” said the author of an investigation by RFE/RL. According to the website’s interviewees, sodomy has always been part of the country’s criminal code, but no one made any particular effort to target gay men until a video was made public in 2011 showing a teacher at Ashgabat’s medical university having sex with two of his students.
“In 2012 everything changed. One after the other, friends and acquaintances disappeared, parents’ children went missing and they only found out later when all relatives were summoned to court and the young men were publicly tried and humiliated under article 135 part 1 (“Sodomy”). They arrested people at their workplaces or carried out raids on apartments. Everyone was scared and no one could help. Two months after the first arrests, they came for me too at my place of work. Luckily I wasn’t there. The manager warned me by phone and said that they wanted to take me in for questioning,” 41-year-old Dangatar told Kyrgyz Indigo.
It was not possible to find any mention of the 2011 sex scandal on the internet, or the video itself.
The first gay man in Turkmenistan to come out publicly and make the issue of homosexuality in the country a topic of international discussion was Kasym Garayev. In 2019, he went missing after speaking to independent media outlets about his sexuality and the arrests, humiliations and attempts to “cure” him with the help of men of religion that he had endured. He reappeared only after international rights organisations took up his case, but then disavowed all of his previous statements.